One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1formal The action of anointing someone with oil or ointment as a religious rite or as a symbol of investiture as a monarch.
- ‘Following the designation process, Halpern and Long see an underlying mythos that ritual unction ought to be followed by a battle in which the designated individual demonstrates his worthiness to rule.’
- ‘Here I would suggest that one of the main secrets of success in the early Church lay in the fact that the early believers believed in unction from on high and not entertainment from men.’
- ‘The Scottish king retained the paternal image of an earlier regnal style, and was not yet set apart by crowning and unction from his subjects, who were apt, indeed, to address him in a free and familiar style.’
- ‘Exorcisms were performed particularly on those items employed in unction and on holy water, as well as food and drink.’
- 1.1short for extreme unction
- ‘Seven sacraments are recognized: baptism in infancy, followed by confirmation with consecrated oil, penance, the Eucharist, matrimony, ordination, and unction in times of sickness or when near death.’
- ‘On your deathbed, convert the padre who comes to give you final unction.’
2archaic Treatment with a medicinal oil or ointment.
- 2.1count noun An ointment.‘mercury in the form of unctions’
- ‘Sunday was spent applying more unctions, lotions and poultices than any sane person should ever need.’
- ‘Then there's the wonderfully blue pool, two saunas, two steam rooms and two Jacuzzis, changing rooms steeped in aromatic unctions and potions, hair dryers, cozzie dryers, private showers and complimentary towels.’
- ‘Do you slather the white unction on like cake mixture or go for something a little more moderate?’
- 2.1count noun An ointment.
3A fervent manner of expression apparently arising from deep emotion, especially when assumed.‘the headlines gloated with the kind of effusive unction only the English press can muster’
- ‘James Duncan, preaching with great unction and power, was asked what was the secret of such powerful preaching.’
- ‘Josafa Vasconcelos, a Presbyterian pastor from Brazil, preached with unction in Portuguese, enjoying the benefit of not having to use an interpreter.’
Late Middle English: from Latin unctio(n-), from unguere ‘anoint’. unction (sense 3) arises from the link between religious fervour and ‘anointing’ with the Holy Spirit.
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